Hundreds of workers tested positive for coronavirus in meat processing plants and slaughterhouses.
These include the Anglesey chicken processing plant, where more than 150 workers were infected with Covid-19, and factories in Wrexham and West Yorkshire.
There have also been major outbreaks in Germany, France, Spain and the United States.
Bev Clarkson of Unite says: “Unite has repeatedly warned of the likelihood of coronavirus outbreaks in meat processing plants across the UK.”
People get coronavirus from droplets that can cough, sneeze, or exhale by an infected person.
Infection can occur as a result of close contact with a person or touching infected surfaces.
“Plants, and in particular indoor and cold rooms, are an ideal medium for the spread and spread of coronavirus,” says Lawrence Young, professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick.
“Virus drops from infected people are more likely to spread, settle and remain viable.”
Another possible factor in these refrigerated workplaces is noisy equipment that requires people to speak louder or shout, which can increase the spread of infected droplets.
What about working conditions?
It is difficult to keep workers two meters apart when they work on fast-moving production lines, and the lack of daylight can also help the virus survive.
“When your people are standing next to each other, working hard – because, of course, it’s hard work – and breathing hard, you have a chance to spread the virus from one infected person to many who are in close proximity,” Tara said. Smith, professor of epidemiology at Kent State University in Ohio.
“And then, of course, you have a chain of dominoes after that.”
There is no evidence that the meat products themselves could have been a source of Covid-19 infection in plants.
Food Standards Agency said it was very unlikely that you could get coronavirus from food, as it is known that it is not transmitted.
These are not just conditions inside the plant that can increase the risk of coronavirus.
“Some of these factories have their own or nearby housing, where each hostel has several people. They can be transported by bus to the place of work, and they will be together indoors all day, ”said Senior Researcher Michael Head. Global Health Research Fellow at the University of Southampton.
The Unite union says that although it represents many workers in the meat processing sector, migrant workers often work in factories who may not be entitled to full sick pay, so they can lose money if they are isolated after illness.
The union says they often do not speak English as their mother tongue and are worried about losing their jobs, so they may not want to voice concerns.
The British Meat Processing Association (BMPA) told Reality Check that most workers in its member factories are full-time employees, not agency employees.
What is being done to protect workers?
Government has guidelines issued safe work in food production, including, if possible, at a distance of at least two meters from each other.
BMPA has also issued a manual that includes cleaning plants more often than usual, isolating those who have symptoms and stunning start and break times.
It is also proposed to provide additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as visors, if any – meat processing workers usually wear PPE, but this does not necessarily include masks.
Dr. Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, says the organization has advised on a number of outbreaks in factories, some of which have been linked to meat processing.
“Where outbreaks occur, we work closely with the NHS Test and Trace to ensure proper testing and contact tracing, both inside and outside the workplace. Where necessary, mobile test units are deployed to enable rapid testing of large employees. ”
In Germany, the government prohibits outsourcing of livestock personnel — workers must be hired directly by the company.
A source close to Defra in the UK told the BBC that another factor considered in Germany is poor preparation and poor language skills of the predominantly East European workforce in the meat processing industry, which hinders compliance with the rules.
Disease Control Center Report in the USA they recommended slowing down production lines, establishing physical barriers between employees, forcing everyone to wear face masks and ensuring that no one loses money due to self-isolation.
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